Saturday, October 20, 2018

World Hospice and Palliative Care Day

Last Saturday, October 13, was World Hospice and Palliative Care Day, a key aim of which is to raise awareness and understanding of the needs – medical, social, practical, and spiritual – of people living with a life limiting illness and their families. The day is significant for me as since September 4 I've been working as the palliative care chaplain at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids, MN.

Organised by a committee of the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance, World Hospice and Palliative Care Day is a "unified day of action to celebrate and support hospice and palliative care around the world." This special day is always celebrated on the second Saturday of October and has a different theme each year. This year's theme is "Palliative Care – Because I Matter!"

The Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance chose this theme as it "centers on the lived experience of people affected by serious illness, looking at what matters most, including the often-overlooked financial impact of palliative care needs on individuals and households." The alliance notes that "the theme also contains elements of human rights and justice, asking: If I matter, then why am I not getting the care I need?"

This year is the centenary of Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the modern hospice movement. It's fitting, then, that this year’s World Hospice and Palliative Care Day theme draws its wording from her iconic quote: "You matter because you are you and you matter until the end of your life."

Some personal reflections

To mark World Hospice and Palliative Care Day I share today two excerpts from my final self-evaluation of my chaplain residency experience at Abbott Northwestern Hospital (September 2017August 2018).

The first excerpt focuses on my understanding on spiritual assessment as based on an understanding of behavior science and grounded in theology. Here's what I wrote . . .

My spiritual assessment of a patient and/or his/her situation comes very naturally to me and occurs through the interaction I facilitate and engage in. The sense I have about this communication/interaction (and the feedback I’ve received from both patients and staff) is that it is genuine; that I relate emotionally and spiritually in a very authentic way, a very human way. I think I’ve had a lifetime of honing the ability to relate in this way, without even really realizing it. Through my coming out journey or perhaps better still, the ways I’ve chosen to respond to the challenges of coming out and all the questioning and searching such an experience is capable of facilitating, I’ve come to integrate much insight and experience relating to “behavior science” (Jungian/Sacred Psychology mostly) and “theology,” primarily sacramental theology (in its broadest sense) and the embodied theology inherent to the mystic/prophetic spiritual path, a path that runs deep within all the great religious traditions of humanity.

I think of the strange experience I had [on] Sunday, August 12. I’d just finished a 24-hour on-call shift – a very eventful shift. I was walking to the hospital parking ramp, reflecting on the powerful pastoral encounters I’d just experienced. I also knew that I’d be meeting later that day with the young man I’d first meet at the hospital and whom I’ve been accompanying in a supportive way on his ongoing journey towards recovery from addiction. The morning was very still and clear and for reason I can't explain, the lyrics of Kate Bush’s song “Lyra” from the soundtrack of the movie The Golden Compass began resounding gently in my head.

Where are our lives
If there is no dream?
Where is our home?
We don't know how
There will be a way
Out of the storm
We will find home

And her soul walks beside her
An army stands behind her
Lyra, Lyra

And her face, full of grace
Two worlds collide around her
The truth lies deep inside her
Lyra, Lyra

And the stars look down upon her
As darkness settles on her
Lyra, Lyra

Who's to know
What's in the future
But we hope
We will be with her
We have all our love to give her
Oh, Lyra, Lyra

It’s a very pagan song, when I stop and think about it. Not surprising, really, considering the source material is the trilogy His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, and that the song is written and performed by Kate Bush, a singer-songwriter of whom it’s been said has “her own mystery school . . . [a] unique strand of Shaivism, Dionysian and Druid philosophy, loosely wrapped up in a song and dance tradition.”

Expanding on this, Martin Glover shared the following reflection in 2014:

There is a barrenness in religions today. Whether in Christianity, Islam or false prophet new age gurus, humanity is rudderless, bedazzled by materialism. Kate’s communion with nature is the antidote. It is a call to joy, a celebration of the sublime. It’s about the intoxication of love and the ecstasy that follows. [It's] where wisdom lies, hidden deep within its mystical and poetic roots.

Kate’s "religion" is the tiny spark of light that defeats the dark forces that seek dominion over the natural world. . . . She exemplifies English pagan beauty. A dark timelessness and stillness surrounds her wild abandonment, whilst her voice charges at you like Boudicca returned, riding a golden chariot of weird melody, harmony and bitter dissonance.

As strange as it may sound, I feel there’s something about my approach to chaplaincy in all of this; my approach to life, actually. For if this residency has revealed anything to me, it’s that I’m well along the path of integration. I suppose some might think that’s a grandiose statement, but I see it instead as a statement of self-evaluation.

I’m also aware that for me, the boundaries between the different aspects of my life are pretty thin and nebulous. I “walk in many worlds;” and, inspired and compelled by a deep inner wisdom honed over the long and serpentine course of my journey as a queer man, I cross boundaries intuitively and in ways that ensure no one is damaged or hurt – myself included. In short, I feel there’s something of the shaman in me. And I’m okay with that.

Anyway, perhaps such thoughts and realizations were welling up within me that Sunday morning as I walked to my car after some pretty intense patient encounters, and with Kate Bush’s “Lyra” in my head. I suddenly found myself slowing my pace, looking up at the sun shining through the trees, and saying to myself, Maybe everything I’ve done and been through has brought me to this moment and to this work!

As soon as I said these words my pager went off in my pocket. My initial thought was, Oh, great! The universe is now going to totally debunk that thought by giving me a horrendous situation to deal with! Yet when I looked at the pager there was no such message on it. It fact there was no message at all. Yet its going off at that exact moment was, I feel, some kind of affirming message; a way that the Divine; the Universe, whatever name one wants to use was mysteriously telling me to, Hey, pay attention to that thought, to that realization, that truth!

The second excerpt I share from my August 2018 final self-evaluation of my chaplain residency experience focuses on what does it means to me to be a professional in ministry. Specifically, this part of the evaluation asked me to describe my "pattern of interacting with other professional staff, both nurses and doctors, with respect to collaboration and dialogue." Following is how I responded to this question . . .

Something significant I can say and lift up in relation to this question is the way I’ve worked with and have been accepted by the Palliative Care team at Abbott. It’s been quite something, when I stop and think about it. It’s been like a learning/mentoring experience which since February (almost mid-way through my residency) has run parallel to, though certainly not separate from or in competition with, my “regular” chaplaincy learning/mentoring experience.

Above: With members of the Palliative Care team of Abbott Northwestern Hospital (along with one of these member's children) – August 22, 2018.

The focused work of palliative care has ensured that I’ve had numerous encounters with staff – doctors included. These encounters have often taken place within the context of some pretty intense family care conferences. I recognize that I’m present at these conferences as a professional member of the hospital staff and the patient’s care team, but I’m also something else, something other – a professional who is capable of doing and being something unique: a listening and caring presence that is an intermediary between the world of the hospital and that of the patient.

I think this unique role can best be illustrated by the fact that when a care conference ends I don’t exit with my fellow hospital professionals. I stay and make myself available to the family. This simple action conveys, I believe, something of the special role of the chaplain. We’re of the hospital yet we’re also of (and about) something other. And the thing is, I do this “something other” without offending my fellow hospital professionals; without “talking sides.” Indeed, I often find myself having a quiet, supportive word with, for example, a nurse who I know has been working with a particularly tough medical case.

I also think that being a professional in chaplain ministry means you’re available as a listening and grounding presence to everyone you encounter in the setting that you’re working within. For me this past year, that has meant janitorial staff, the folks in the gift store and the cafeteria, and a number of other colleagues with whom I’ve connected and forged a particular bond of comradery and friendship. I have to say that I’ll miss seeing and interacting with all of these folks very much as they’ve become part of my daily life and I feel they’ve all been, in one way or another, mutually-giving and -affirming relationships.

For more on my experience of interfaith chaplaincy, see the previous Wild Reed posts:
Chaplaincy: A Ministry of Welcome
Interfaith Chaplaincy: Meeting People Where They're At
Spirituality and the Healthcare Setting
Out and About – Autumn 2016
Out and About – Spring 2017
Out and About – Autumn 2017
Out and About – Winter 2017-2018
Out and About – Spring 2018
Out and About – Summer 2018
The Prayer Tree
Beloved and Antlered
Welcoming the Return of Spring
Celebrating the Summer Solstice

Friday, October 19, 2018

Musings on the Possibility of “FinnPoe”

Above: Oscar Isacc as Poe Dameron and John Boyega as Finn in the 2015 film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Last December, Vanity Fair’s Peyton Thomas mused on what it would take to get a queer character in Star Wars.

Thomas notes that queer fans of the franchise have lobbied since 2015 for a romantic relationship between the Star Wars characters Poe and Finn — a move that John Boyega (right) who plays Finn would support, as he indicated in an October 2017 interview. “[Poe] is always looking at [Finn] with love in his eyes, and I guess that the fans saw it,” the actor said. “And then they realized that either [Poe] needs to chill or come out.'”

According to writer Bill Bradley, some queer fans of Stars Wars have “lovingly dubbed” the pair “FinnPoe.”

Bradley’s piece last month at The Huffington Post quotes actor Oscar Isacc, who plays Poe, as saying that when it comes to depicting Poe’s relationships, he is “all about keeping it as fluid as possible.”

Above: Oscar Isacc as Poe Dameron in the 2015 film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Following is Bradley’s piece in its entirety. It’s accompanied by various fan-art depictions of Poe and Finn that I found online. Enjoy!


When it comes to Poe Dameron’s love life, there’s a galaxy of possibilities, says Oscar Isaac.

The actor, who’s currently starring in the Nazi thriller Operation Finale, recently spoke with HuffPost about his highly venerated Star Wars character and the fan community’s penchant for speculating about his potential love interests.

As io9 uncovered by way of Pablo Hidalgo’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi ― The Visual Dictionary, the official guidebook to the film, Poe’s character wears a ring given to him by his mother, which he’s “waiting to share . . . someday with the right partner.”

Fans jumped on the gender-neutral term “partner,” with many using it to ’ship a romance between Poe and John Boyega’s character, Finn ― a pairing lovingly dubbed FinnPoe.

We asked Isaac, who’s been supportive of Poe’s possible LGBTQ identity, about his character’s ring and the use of the term “partner” in the guidebook.

His coy response: “I’m all about keeping it as fluid as possible.”

“There are a lot of interesting people in the galaxy, it’d be a shame to cut off 50 percent,” he said. “I think Poe’s open to any kind of adventure.”

So it seems like Poe might be taking the Lando Calrissian approach to love. [Note: This “approach,” i.e., pansexuality, has been described by writer Megan Farokhmanesh as “bullshit” – “a piss-poor shot at representation that still manages to reinforce hetero relationships as default.” It also feeds into, says Farokhmanesh, “the long, damaging tradition of conflating pansexuality with promiscuity.”]

Still, as much as people want Poe’s “adventures” to include Finn, it doesn’t seem likely.

“I don’t know if that’s going to happen,” Boyega told us earlier this year when we asked about the possibility of FinnPoe. He added that Finn’s complicated feelings for Rey (Daisy Ridley) – as well as his kiss with Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) – probably put a future with Poe to rest. [Note: Tran herself, however, has admitted that she’d rather see Poe end up with Finn. Here, here!]

“I mean, just so many [love interests]. They need to all leave me alone, man. I’m trying to just be handsome and sexy on my own, and they’re interrupting,” [Boyega] joked.

In contrast to Finn’s plethora of romantic options in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Poe’s love life hasn’t really been explored. (Unless you’re willing to look very deeply into that time he gave his jacket to Finn in Force Awakens, or the very casual lip bite captured in GIFs shared across the internet.)

But it could be addressed in the upcoming Star Wars IX.

Maybe there is a “partner” out there for Poe somewhere, even if it’s not Finn. But if so, could someone please tell that to his lip bite?

– Bill Bradley
Oscar Isacc Wants to
Keep Poe’s Love Life ‘As Fluid As Possible’

The Huffington Post
September 5, 2018

Related Off-site Links:
What Will It Take to Get a Gay Character in Star Wars? – Peyton Thomas (Vanity Fair, December 12, 2017).
What a Pansexual Lando Calrissian Reveals About the Evolution of Star Wars – Aja Romano (Vox, May 29, 2018).
Lando Calrissian’s Newfound “Pansexuality” Is Bullshit – Megan Farokhmanesh (The Verge, May 17, 2018).
Oscar Isaac on the Possibility of Poe Being an LGBTQ Character in Star Wars – Carolina Moreno (The Huffington Post, December 6, 2017).
Star Wars’ Oscar Isaac Has “Fully Endorsed” Finn and Poe Getting Together – Josh Jackman (Pink News, February 22, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Resisting the Hand of the Empire
One Divine Hammer
What the Vatican Can Learn from the X-Men
The New Superman: Not Necessarily Gay, But Definitely Queer
Adam Sandel on the Queer Appeal of Harry Potter

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Prayer Tree . . . Aflame

In many pagan and indigenous spiritualities, any tree can be representative of the tree, i.e., the World Tree or Cosmic Tree.

In numerous religious traditions the World Tree is represented as a colossal tree which supports the heavens, thereby connecting the heavens, the terrestrial world, and, through its roots, the underworld. The Tree of Life, which connects all forms of creation and is mentioned in the Judeo-Christian Book of Genesis, is a form of the World Tree.

To get to the oak tree by which I regularly pray, one must go off the paved pathways. There is a track, but no doubt for many, it’s a hidden, unknown one. And yet it’s one that leads to the “Tree of Life.” All of this brings to mind the Beloved and Antlered One, “seeker of the forest’s hidden paths,” a powerful and beautiful way of acknowledging all the different, unorthodox ways that one can seek and find the Sacred.

– Michael Bayly
Excerpted from "The Prayer Tree"
The Wild Reed
September 18, 2017

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Prayer Tree
Autumn by the Creek
"I Caught a Glimpse of a God"
In Autumn Light
Integrating Cernunnos, "Archetype of Sensuality and the Instinctual World"
Autumn Beauty
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
Autumn Dance
Move Us, Loving God
O Sacred Season of Autumn
"Thou Hast Thy Music Too"
Autumn Hues (2011)
Autumn Hues (2015)
An Autumn Walk by Minnehaha Creek
Autumn Leaves
From the Falls to the River
Autumn Snow
Autumn . . . Within and Beyond (2016)

Related Off-site Links:
The Astounding Connection Between People and Trees Through Time – Jocelyn Mercado (Uplift, November 6, 2017).
How Trees Talk to Each Other and Share Gifts – Melissa Breyer (Tree Hugger, June 29, 2018).
A Biologist Believes That Trees Speak a Language We Can Learn – Ephrat Livni (Quartz, November 3, 2017).
Autumn BeautyThe Leveret (November 15, 2008).

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Quote of the Day

[Donald] Trump represents a party that now embraces (or is resigned to) intellectual rot and moral nihilism. The GOP is a party that has adopted Trump’s sense of male victimhood and has made peace with Trump’s cruelty to women and indifference to children’s welfare. And while Trump would prefer to bask in the reflected glory of the military, his personal weakness and cowardice are evident. In fully embracing Trump as its champion, the GOP has lost intellectual respectability, moral legitimacy and respect for even the most fundamental value, courage.

– Jennifer Rubin
Excerpted from "Trump Revels in His Ignorance
and Reveals His Cowardice
The Washington Post
October 17, 2018

Related Off-site Links:
Republicans Aren’t Running on Taxes Anymore. They’re Running on Bigotry – Jamelle Bouie (Slate, October 16, 2018).
I Listened to All Six Trump Rallies in October. You Should, Too – Susan B. Glasser (The New Yorker, October 12, 2018).
Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh and the Path to Neoliberal Fascism – Henry A. Giroux (Salon, October 10, 2018).
Republicans Don't Care What You Think – Dylan Scott (Vox, October 6, 2018).
The President Is a Crook – David Frum (The Atlantic, August 22, 2018).
Trump’s Biggest Crime Isn’t Being Covered by the Mainstream Media – Tom Engelhardt (The Nation, September 6, 2018).
Neoliberal Fascism and the Twilight of the Social – Henry A. Giroux (TruthDig, September 8, 2018).
Republicans Rigged the System to Enable Crimes Like Trump’s Tax Evasion – Harry Cheadle (Vice, October 3, 2018).
In Yemen, Trump Is Taking Tolerance for War Crimes to a New Level – Khury Petersen-Smith (TruthOut, October 11, 2018).
Anger at Trump Inaction as Hurricane Michael Leaves Millions Without Basic Needs – Jake Johnson (Common Dreams via TruthOut, October 15, 2018).
Trump Won in 2016 Thanks to Voter Suppression Says Carol Anderson, Author of One Person, No VoteDemocracy Now! (October 16, 2018).
Trump Is America's Most Dangerous Export – Robert Reich (Common Dreams, October 17, 2018).
Saudi Affair Exposes Trumpism's Moral Apathy – Stephen Collinson (CNN, October 17, 2018).
Mueller Ready to Deliver Key Findings in His Trump Probe, Sources Say – Chris Strohm, Greg Farrell, and Shannon Pettypiece (Bloomberg, October 17, 2018).

UPDATES: You Think the GOP Is Extreme Now? It’ll Be Worse If They Win in November – Jesse Lee (The Huffington Post, October 18, 2018).
The Proud Boys Have Revived Far-Right Gang Terror with GOP Support – Shane Burley (TruthOut, October 18, 2018).
The Proud Boys, the GOP, and "the Fascist Creep" – Christopher Mathias (The Huffington Post, October 18, 2018).
Trump's Failure to Fight Climate Change Is a Crime Against Humanity – Jeffrey Sachs (CNN, October 18, 2018).
Trump Openly Celebrates the Assault of a Journalist While Campaigning in Montana – Cody Fenwick (AlterNet, October 18, 2018).
As World Demands Justice for Khashoggi Murder, Trump Declares "Open Season on All Journalists" – Jake Johnson (Common Dreams, October 19, 2018).
The President of the United States Just Explicitly Endorsed Political Violence – Jack Holmes (Common Dreams, October 19, 2018).
Billionaire-Funded Fascism Is Rising in America – Thom Hartmann (TruthDig, October 19, 2018).
The Suffocation of Democracy – Christopher R. Browning (The New York Review of Books, October 25, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
A Profoundly Troubling and Tragic Indictment
Michael Sean Winters: "The Entire Republican Establishment Has Caved to Trumpism"
Quote of the Day – May 23, 2018
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Opposing the Trump Administration's Inhumane Treatment of Immigrant Families
Quote of the Day – March 12, 2018
Trump's America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence
Trump's Playbook

Friday, October 12, 2018

In the Garden of Spirituality – Gerald May


The Wild Reed’s series of reflections on religion and spirituality continues with an excerpt from Gerald May's book The Dark Night of the Soul: A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection Between Darkness and Spiritual Growth (2004).

In his book, May draws on the spiritual insights and writings of the two great sixteenth-century Christian mystics, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. He notes that for them, the soul is not "something a person has, but who a person most deeply is: the essential spiritual nature of a human being.


People would be surprised if they knew
what their souls said to God sometimes.

Centuries before Freud “discovered” the unconscious, contemplatives such as Brother Lawrence, Teresa of Avila, and John of the Cross had a profound appreciation that there is an active life of the soul that goes on beneath our awareness. It is to this unconscious dimension of the spiritual life that Teresa and John refer when they use the term “dark.”

When we speak of darkness today, we are often referring to something sinister, as in “powers of darkness” or the “dark side.” This is not what Teresa and John mean when they used the Spanish word for dark, oscura. For them, it simply means “obscure.” In the same way that things are difficult to see at night, the deepest relationship between God and person is hidden from our conscious awareness.

In speaking of la noche oscura, the dark night of the soul, John is addressing something mysterious and unknown, but by no means sinister or evil. It is instead profoundly sacred and precious beyond all imagining. John says the dark night of the soul is “happy,” “glad,” “guiding,” and full of “absolute grace.” It is the secret way in which God not only liberates us from our attachments and idolatries, but also brings us to the realization of our true nature. The night is the means by which we find our heart’s desire, our freedom to love.

This is not to say that all darkness is good. Teresa and John use another word, tinieblas, to describe the more sinister kind of darkness. There is no doubt about the difference. Teresa uses oscura in saying that the spiritual life is so dark she needs much patience “in order to write about what I don’t know.” But she uses tinieblas when she says, “The devil is darkness itself.” Similarly, John says it is one thing to be in oscuras and quite another to be in tinieblas. In oscuras things are hidden; in tinieblas one is blind. In fact, it is the very blindness of tinieblas, our slavery to attachment and delusion, that the dark night of the soul is working to heal.

For Teresa and John, the dark night of the soul is a totally loving, healing, and liberating process. Whether it feels that way is another question entirely. Nowadays most people think of the dark night of the soul as a time of suffering and tribulation – redemptive, perhaps, but entirely unpleasant. That is not always the case. . . . Liberation, whether experienced pleasurably or painfully, always involves relinquishment, some kind of loss. It may be a loss of something we’re glad to be rid of, like a bad habit, or something we cling to for dear life, like a love relationship. Either way it’s still a loss. Thus even when a dark-night experience is pleasant, there is still likely to be an accompanying sense of emptiness and perhaps even grief. Conversely, when a dark-night experience leaves us feeling tragically bereft, there still may be a sense of openness and fresh possibility. The point is, no matter how hard we try, we cannot see the process clearly. We only know what we’re feeling at a given time, and that determines whether our experience is pleasurable or painful. As one of my friends often says, “God only knows what’s really going on – literally!”

The only characteristic of the experience of the dark night that is certain is its obscurity. One simply does not comprehend clearly what is happening. . . . The obscurity of the dark night is so constant that I sometimes say, “If you’re certain you’re going through a dark night of the soul, you probably aren’t.” The statement is flippant, but in my experience people having an experience of the dark nigh almost always think it is something else. If it’s a pleasant experience, they may call it a mysterious breakthrough, a moment of unexplainable grace. If it is unpleasant, they tend to see it as a failure on their part: laziness, lassitude, resistance, or some other inadequacy.

If, as John maintains, the night is such a gift, why must the process remain so obscure? Since the night involves relinquishing attachments, it takes us beneath our denial into territory we are in the habit of avoiding. We might feel willing to relinquish compulsions we acknowledge as destructive, but anyone who has made a New Year’s resolution knows how self-defeating such attempts can be. And what about the attachments we love, the ones we honor and value? Would we willingly cooperate in being freed from drivenness to do good works or to care for our family, even though we know it comes from compulsion rather than love? Would we willingly join God’s grace in relinquishing attachments to the beliefs and images of God that give us comfort, security, and meaning, even if we recognize how they restrict and restrain us?

If we are honest, I think we have to admit that we will likely try to sabotage any movement toward true freedom. If we really knew what we were called to relinquish on this journey, our defenses would never allow us to take the first step. Sometimes the only way we can enter the deeper dimension of the journey is by being unable to see where we’re going.

John’s explanation of the obscurity goes further. He says that in worldly matters it is good to have light so we know where to go without stumbling. But in spiritual matters it is precisely when we do think we know where to go that we are most likely to stumble. Thus, John says, God darkens our awareness in order to keep us safe. When we cannot chart our own course, we become vulnerable to God’s protection, and the darkness becomes a “guiding night,” a “night more kindly than the dawn.”

Let me say it again: whether we experience it as painful or pleasurable, the night is dark for our protection. We cannot liberate ourselves; our defenses and resistance will not permit it, and we can hurt ourselves in the attempt. To guide us toward the love that we most desire, we must be taken where we could not and would not go on our own. And lest we sabotage the journey, we must not know where we are going. Deep in the darkness, way beneath our senses, God is instilling “another, better love” and “deeper, more urgent longings” that empower our willingness for all the necessary relinquishments along the way.

This transformative process – the freeing of love from attachment – is akin to the ancient biblical concept of salvation. Hebrew words connoting salvation often contain a root made of the letters y and s, yodh and shin. One example is the Hebrew name of Jesus, Yeshua, “God saves.” This y-s root implies being set free from bondage or confinement, enabled to move freely, empowered to be and do according to one’s true nature. In contrast to life-denying asceticism that advocates freedom from desire, Teresa and John see authentic transformation as leading to freedom for desire. For them, the essence of all human desire is love.

In their understanding, the blindness of tinieblas is enslavement to attachment and sin, an impoverishment of love. Being “saved from sin,” then, is synonymous with being freed for the fullness of love. John, in the theology of his time, saw the transformative process of the dark night as identical to what supposedly occurred in purgatory – only it was happening now, during this life.

The goal of the transformation, the dawn after the night, consists of three precious gifts for the human soul. First, the soul’s deepest desire is satisfied. Freed from the idolatries of their attachments, individuals are able to be completely in love with God and to love their neighbors as themselves. This love involves one’s whole self: actions as well as feelings. Second, the delusion of separation from God and creation is dispelled; slowly one consciously realizes and enjoys the essential union that has always been present. Third, the freedom of love and realization of union leads to active participation in God. Here one not only recognizes one’s own beauty and precious nature, but also shares God’s love and compassion for others in real, practical service in the world.

When we begin to grasp the breadth and depth of this vision, it becomes obvious that we could never achieve it on our own. It seems a miracle that it could happen at all.

Others highlighted in The Wild Reed’s “In the Garden of Spirituality” series include:
Zainab Salbi | Daniel Helminiak | Rod Cameron | Paul Collins | Joan Chittister | Toby Johnson | Joan Timmerman | Uta Ranke-Heinemanm | Caroline Jones | Ron Rolheiser | James C. Howell | Paul Coelho | Doris Lessing | Michael Morwood | Kenneth Stokes | Dody Donnelly | Adrian Smith | Henri Nouwen | Diarmuid Ó Murchú | Patrick Carroll | Jesse Lava | Geoffrey Robinson | Joyce Rupp | Debbie Blue | Rosanne Cash | Elizabeth Johnson | Eckhart Tolle | James B. Nelson | Jeanette Blonigen Clancy | Mark Hathaway | Parker Palmer | Karen Armstrong | Alan Lurie | Paul Wapner | Pamela Greenberg | Ilia Delio | Hazrat Inayat Khan | Andrew Harvey | Kabir Helminski | Beatrice Bruteau | Richard Rohr | Judy Cannato | Anthony de Mello | Marianne Williamson | David Richo

Opening image: Michael J. Bayly.
Book cover design: Noel Barnes.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Something to Think About . . .

Something for gay men to reflect on . . . We rightly condemn the sexual harassment and assault of which Trump, Kavanaugh, and other male politicians are accused. We describe these people as vile monsters. But if we’ve ever been at a bar, club, or circuit party, drunk or sober, grabbing or patting somebody’s behind, touching their genital area, or even squeezing their biceps without their consent, we are no different. And we’ve all seen plenty of this behaviour in gay metropoles. It may be time to acknowledge our hypocrisy.

Omar Alvi
via Facebook
September 28, 2018

Related Off-site Links:
Gay Men, We Need To Talk About Sexual Misconduct – Scott Nevins (Logo, December 14, 2017).
Why Hasn’t the Gay Community Had a #MeToo Moment? – Michael Segalov (The Guardian, March 7, 2018).
Me Too: The Difficult Truths About Gay Men and Sexual Assault – Noah Michelson (The Huffington Post, October 16, 2017).
How Gay Men Normalize Sexual Assault – Phillip Henry (Them, November 17, 2017).

Friday, October 05, 2018

Quote of the Day

Image: Bruce MacKinnon

It seemed as if something had changed since the 2016 election. Women got angry, and they poured out their stories, and they mined their pain on social media, and they got up in politicians’ faces and begged to be heard. Nationwide polls after [Christine Blasey] Ford’s testimony showed that more than half of U.S. women surveyed said they opposed [Brett] Kavanaugh’s nomination [to the US Supreme Court] and fewer than a third said they supported it.

Republicans pretended to listen to them. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) called for a limited FBI investigation shortly after being confronted by sexual assault survivors in an elevator, and he and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) made a show of being undecided up until the last minute. But ultimately, all of the party’s unease with the Me Too movement coalesced around the figure of poor, put-upon rich white guy Brett Kavanaugh. A line was being drawn. He was not going to be another guy who went down for a 30-year-old claim, no matter how credible the witness or how many lies he told under oath or how many more people came forward to support her claims.

Somehow, Republican men assumed the mantle of victimhood. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) decried the “physical intimidation” of members of Congress by women. Trump lamented that “it’s a scary time for young men” but said that young women are “doing great.”

The government cupped its hands over women’s mouths and turned the music up.

Laura Bassett
Excerpted from "Women Let Out A Primal Scream
Over Brett Kavanaugh. It Didn’t Matter
The Huffington Post
October 5, 2018

Related Off-site Links and Updates:
Brett Kavanaugh's Confirmation to US Supreme Court Gives Trump a Major Victory – Sabrina Siddiqui and Lauren Gambino (The Guardian, October 7, 2018).
Brett Kavanaugh Confirmed to Supreme Court as Senate Rejects Me Too Movement – Jennifer Bendery and Arthur Delaney (The Huffington Post, October 6, 2018).
So It’s True: Republicans Really Do Hate Women – Amanda Marcotte (Salon, October 5, 2018).
Brett Kavanaugh’s Confirmation: The Patriarchy Strikes Back at #MeToo – Erin Keane (Salon, October 6, 2018).
"I Feel Outraged, Exhausted and Betrayed': Kavanaugh Nomination – the Feminist Response – Joanna Walters and Erin Durkin (The Guardian, October 6, 2018).
Donald Trump Has Turned America Into a Place Where Victims Are Mocked and Being Merciless Is a Virtue – Shappi Khorsandi (The Independent, October 5, 2018).
Brett Kavanaugh Cannot Have It Both Ways – Robert Post (Politico, October 6, 2018).
Brett Kavanaugh’s Partisanship: It Is as Disqualifying as the Supreme Court Nominee’s Alleged Mistreatment of WomenThe Economist (October 4, 2018).
The “Gravedigger of American Democracy”: Holocaust Historian Says Mitch McConnell Broke Politics – Cody Fenwick (AlterNet via Salon, October 5, 2018).
McConnell Says Kavanaugh Outrage Will “Blow Over” – and GOP Takeover of Courts Will Continue – Chas Danner (New York Magazine, October 6, 2018).
The Cost of Kavanaugh's Victory? The Legitimacy of the US Supreme Court – Andrew Gawthorpe (The Guardian, October 7, 2018).
The Supreme Court Is Now a Partisan Institution – Yascha Mounk (Slate, October 6, 2018).
The High Court Brought Low – The Editorial Board (The New York Times, October 5, 2018).
Susan Collins’ Pro-Kavanaugh Speech on the Senate Floor Was an Insult to Americans’ Intelligence – Mark Joseph Stern (Slate, October 5, 2018).
Christine Blasey Ford’s Attorneys Reveal Statement From Corroborating Witness – Carla Herreria (The Huffington Post, October 6, 2018).
The Problem That Has No Name – Jessica Valenti (Medium, October 4, 2018).
Presumption of Innocence Is for Privileged Men Like Brett Kavanaugh, Not Laquan McDonald or the Central Park Five – Briahna Gray (The Intercept, October 4, 2018).
"What Goes Around, Comes Around": Kavanaugh's Snarl Takes on New Meaning Now That He's a U.S. Supreme Court Justice – Jon Queally (Common Dreams, October 7, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Insightful Perspectives on the Kavanaugh/Ford Hearing

Image: Bruce McKinnon.

The following is excerpted from Alex Cooke's September 30, 2018 article, "Halifax Artist's Cartoon in Response to Kavanaugh Hearing Grips Internet."

The graphic image by Halifax-based Bruce MacKinnon shows Justice blindfolded and pinned down, her scales cast aside as a man's hand covers her mouth — an explicit reference to how California professor Christine Blasey Ford described an alleged sexual assault by [Brett] Kavanaugh dating back to 1982. In the picture, the cuffs on the shirt the man is wearing are decorated with the Republican elephant.

Like many viewers over the past week, MacKinnon, a cartoonist for The Chronicle Herald, was gripped by Ford's televised testimony at the Senate Judiciary Committee, which culminated in a request for an FBI investigation and the delay of a Senate vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation.

"I watched the testimony as it happened. It was riveting," MacKinnon said Sunday. "It was one of those things where you couldn't even exhale until she was finished."

Ford alleged Kavanaugh groped her and tried to remove her clothing after he pinned her to a bed at a house party when she was 15 and he was 17 — claims he vehemently denies.

MacKinnon said he was compelled to draw the cartoon, which was published in the weekend edition of The Chronicle Herald, to illustrate what he believes to be a crucial example of how allegations of sexual abuse are treated in North America.

"In a year that was so dominated by the #MeToo movement and the changes that I think we all hope will come from that, this seems to be an almost watershed moment and a very pivotal one for America," he said.

The image has gone viral since Saturday, amassing tens of thousands of likes and thousands of shares on social media websites like Reddit, Twitter and Facebook.

It caught the attention of actress and #MeToo activist Alyssa Milano, who tweeted it out Sunday with the caption: "You've made a misogynistic, hurtful, joke of our Supreme Court, @realDonaldTrump. ... Women won’t forget. And we vote."

Some users have described feeling a "gut punch" upon seeing it, and one woman tweeted the provocative cartoon made her feel like she couldn't breathe.

But MacKinnon said these feelings of disgust are, in some ways, the point of his cartoon.

"I think it's important that people face up to it. It is disturbing. But it's exactly the scenario (Ford) described," he said.

"So if we don't talk about it, if we turn away from it and pretend it isn't there, we're not going to solve the problem."

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Out and About – Summer 2018

Well, the autumn equinox has been and gone . . . which means the "time of transformation" is well and truly upon us. Indeed, here in the Twin Cities the temperature is very much cooling and the leaves are beginning to turn. Time, then, to take a look back on the ever-so-recently ended summer.

But first, regular readers will be familiar with my "Out and About" series, one that I began in April 2007 as a way of documenting my life as an “out” gay man, seeking to be all “about” the Spirit-inspired work of embodying God’s justice and compassion in the world. I've continued the series in one form or another for the last 11 years – in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 . . . and now well into 2018.

So let's get started with this latest installment . . .

The big news of the summer was that by the end of it I completed my year-long chaplain residency at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. My residency at Abbott was an incredible experience, to be sure.

In the photo above I'm pictured with my fellow resident chaplains Chandler, Hae, and Katie.

As I mentioned in a previous post, on September 4 I started working at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids as that facility's Palliative Care Chaplain.

Above: My desk in the Spiritual Care office at Abbott Northwestern Hospital – June 29, 2018. That's singer and actor Carl Anderson on my screensaver . . . and Cernunnos, the Beloved and Antlered One, at right.

Above and right: Thursday, June 21, was the summer solstice, and at noon that day I led a "prayer gathering" in the chapel of Abbott Northwestern Hospital to celebrate the occasion.

Entitled "See How We Shine!" this gathering was not only a celebration of summer but also the creation-centered wisdom that is found within the Pagan, Christian, Sufi, and Indigenous spiritual traditions.

For more images and commentary, click here.

Above: My fellow residents and I with CPE supervisor Verlyn Hemmen – Friday, August 31, 2018.

Following (with added images) is part of what Verlyn wrote in my Unit II evaluation.

Michael is deeply compassionate and committed to offering the best care possible. Sometimes his care has him going beyond what might be expected, but his convictions about caring for others includes doing something if he possibly can. This was the subject of one of his journal entries in which he reflected on the difference between “helping” and “caring.” His reflection brought him to wrestle with the dictionary definition and to write a beautiful statement of his understanding of spiritual care (at this particular moment):

I see chaplaincy to be all about embodying a grounded, compassionate, non-anxious, and listening presence. Such embodiment invites both myself and others to go within and to seek, discern, and give voice to our deepest truths and/or to search for new truths in light of situations that may challenge us with honest doubts and new questions relating to faith and meaning-making in our lives.

Clearly, Michael thinks deeply about his pastoral role and continues to tweak and refine in ways that are consistent with the action/reflection model of CPE.

Throughout the unit, Michael continued to explore and share his discoveries about his own spirituality. Some of that came out in the prayer services he led for both the spring equinox and summer solstice, the latter serving as a transition out of our current chapel as it is being remodeled. In these services Michael boldly claimed pagan influences but honored many other spiritual traditions as well. The services were well received as they brought together words, music and photography in significant ways.

. . . Michael is able to embrace his own story and his developing spiritual story in ways that make him open to many and willing to affirm the dignity of each person. Though there are new aspects to his spiritual story, they all seem to fit well with his experiences through life. When he leads groups, he brings a sense of integration that is easy to perceive. His faith seems both to anchor him and free him. I have little doubt that his future will include greater articulation of his theological stance even as his pastoral functioning continues to expand. . . . Michael has many pastoral skills and is able to adjust his pastoral approach quickly. His empathy and his calm presence in the midst of challenging circumstances serves others and him well. He has a playful side that can reduce tension and help to refocus on what is important.

. . . Michael’s work with patients is strong. His awareness of his passion for work in the palliative care area moved him towards deeper engagement with the Palliative Care team at Abbott Northwestern. He was well received and trusted completely. His efforts yielded a job interview within our health care system at another location. He was offered the position and has accepted it. I have little doubt that he will be well received and be an important part of the care teams at Mercy Hospital.

Above, left, and below: On Sunday, June 30, my housemates Tim and Colleen and I joined with around 7,000 others to participate in the "Families Belong Together" march and rally in downtown Minneapolis.

It was one of 700 demonstrations held today across the country to protest the Trump administration's immigration policies, one of which, until only recently, involved the forced separation of children from their parents who had illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. The nationwide demonstrations were organized before this particular policy was recently reversed. Organizers and those who marched continue to  demand, however, that the federal government reunite the families that were separated.

For more images and commentary on this event and issue, click here.

Above: Celebrating Gay Pride (or Queer Appreciation, as I like to call it) at my friend Pete's place – Friday, June 22, 2018. Pictured (from left) my boyfriend Brent, Omar, and (at far right) Jeffrey. Pete took this pic.

Right: One of the dancers at The Saloon Bar's Pride Block Party in downtown Minneapolis – Friday, June 22/Saturday June 23, 2018.

For The Wild Reed's 2018 Queer Appreciation series of posts, see:
Michelangelo Signorile on the Rebellious Purpose of Queer Pride
Liberating Paris: Thoughts on Jennie Livingston's Paris Is Burning
Stephanie Beatriz on the Truth of Being Bi
Queer Native Americans, Colonialism, and the Fourth of July

The summer of 2018 was a summer of weddings for me. I attended three, in fact . . .  officiating at two of them.

Above: With my friend Kelly at our mutual friends' Adam and Alesha's wedding – Minneapolis, July 13, 2018.

Left: With the happy newly weds, Alesha and Adam.

Above: With my friends Angie and Bryon at Adam and Alesha's wedding – Friday, July 13, 2018.

Right: After the wedding my friend Deandre and I went out partying at The Fremont in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis.

Above: Deandre, chilling at my home in south Minneapolis – July 21, 2018.

Left: Deandre and his cat – July 7, 2018.

My boyfriend Brent hosted the fourth Queer Movie Night on Saturday, July 14, 2018. He chose the 2015 drama Carol to view and discuss.

Pictured above are Omar, Pete, Hae, and Jon.

Carol, directed by Todd Haynes and starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, is set in New York City during the early 1950s. It tells the story of a forbidden affair between an aspiring female photographer and an older woman going through a difficult divorce.

The film has received over 270 industry and critic nominations, and over 85 awards and honours. Kate Stables in Sight & Sound writes that "elegant restraint is the film's watchword . . . In this enjoyably deliberate film, each shot and scene is carefully composed to pay homage to '50s cinema, yet infused with an emotional ambiguity which feels decidedly contemporary." Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times says the film is "a serious melodrama about the geometry of desire, a dreamy example of heightened reality that fully engages emotions despite the exact calculations with which it's been made... Carol's lush but controlled visual look is completely intoxicating. This is filmmaking done by masters, an experience to savor."

For more about our Queer Movie Night series, click here.

More Queer Movie Night fun with (above from left) Omar, Pete, Hae, Jeffrey, and Jon . . .

. . . and (at left from left) Mary, Brent, and Joan – Saturday, July 14, 2018.

This summer my childhood friend Jillian and her husband David visited the U.S. from Australia, and on the weekend of July 29-30, they were in the Twin Cities of St. Paul/Minneapolis. To welcome them, I gathered together a group of my friends on the evening of Saturday, July 29 and took Jillian and David out for a meal at Hola Repa Mexican Restaurant in south Minneapolis.

Afterwards, my friend Pete hosted us at his place for drinks and dessert. Thanks, Pete!

Above: With Brent and Jillian & David.

Right: With Jillian.

Above: Jillian and Brent – Saturday, July 29, 2018.

Above (from left): Kathy, Jillian, Joan, Barb, and Kathleen.

Left: Pete, Matt, and Omar.

Above: David, Kathy, John, and Jillian at Hola Repa – Saturday, July 29, 2018.

Above: Jeffrey, Pete, me, Brent, Jillian, and David – Minneapolis, July 29, 2018.

Above: An outdoors summer dinner at the always welcoming home of my friends John and Noelle – Sunday, August 5, 2018.

Left: Little Amelia, enjoying her bubble-making machine!

Above and below: My good friend Raul pictured by that part of Minnehaha Creek close to my home in south Minneapolis – July 22, 2018.

Above: My good friend Mahad at the Prayer Tree – Sunday, August 12, 2018.

Above: A portrait of Mahad – August 20, 2018.

Left: Celebrating my friend Mahad's birthday – August 28, 2018.

On the afternoon of Sunday, September 15, Mahad and I explored the bluffs of the Mississippi River, near the University of St. Thomas.

In particular, we explored the deep wooded ravine that's been created by a spring-fed stream that flows into the river.

Above: At one point on its journey to the river, this spring-fed stream becomes a waterfall!

Left: By the spring where it emerges from the earth.

Above and below: Mahad at one of my long-time favorite spots on the Mississippi.

Above: The wedding of my dear friend Joan to Matt – August 3, 2018.

Right: With my friend Karla. We co-officiated Joan and Matt's wedding.

Above: Joan, Zach, Matt and Cree.

Right: Brent and Omar.

Above: With my dear friend Kathleen at Joan and Matt's August 3 wedding in Mendota Heights.

Above: Summer blooms! (For more images, click here.)

Above and below: My housemate Colleen's kitty, Finn (short for Finnegan). Isn't he adorable?

Right: My friend Deandre, napping with Finn – September 20, 2018.

Above: The third wedding I attended (and the seconded I officiated) this past summer was that of my friends Kenny and Kelsey in Cottage Grove on Saturday, August 18, 2018.

Above: Members of the Palliative Care team of Abbott Northwestern Hospital, with whom I had the honor of working with for much of my residency – August 22, 2018.

Above: With my three fellow resident chaplains (Katie, Chandler, and Hae) and (standing behind us) our CPE supervisors and/or staff chaplains from Abbott Northwestern Hospital. We're pictured at the restaurant in the Midtown Sheraton, where we were taken out for lunch on Tuesday, August 28, 2018. Our residency concluded three days later on Friday, August 31.

Above: Standing at right with my fellow chaplain residents; our CPE supervisors Verlyn and Kim; the hospital's Catholic chaplain, Fr. Sebastien Bakatu; and the incoming group of chaplain residents, including my friend Verna – Friday, August 31, 2018.

Above: My friend Mahad, who came and had lunch with me on the last day of my residency at Abbott Northwestern Hospital – Friday, August 31, 2018.

My friend Omar hosted the fifth Queer Movie Night at his home in Eagan on Sunday, August 26, 2018. He chose the 2015 drama Weekend to view and discuss.

Pictured above are Omar, Hugh, Javier, Hae, and Rico.

Weekend is a 2011 British romantic drama film directed by Andrew Haigh. It stars Tom Cullen and Chris New as two men who meet and begin a sexual relationship the weekend before one of them plans to leave the country.

Writing in the Boston Globe, Wesley Morris comments that Weekend is “one of the truest, most beautiful movies ever made about two strangers.” Lisa Schwarzbaum in Entertainment Weekly writes, “British filmmaker Andrew Haigh‘s background in editing (from Gladiator to Mister Lonely) is evident in the casual beauty of moments that only appear 'found,' giving Weekend an engrossing documentary feel.” While Eric Hynes of The Village Voice remarks, “Naturalistic without being ineloquent, heartfelt yet unsentimental, Weekend is the rarest of birds: a movie romance that rings true.”

Here's an interesting fact: Weekend was restricted to just ten cinemas on its release in Italy on March 10, 2016 after the country's Roman Catholic bishops branded it "indecent" and "unusable" in the country's many Church-owned film theatres. The film was shunned by the more than 1,100 cinemas which are owned by the Catholic Church and make up the bulk of Italy's network of independent/arthouse theatres.

For more about our Queer Movie Night series, click here.

Above: More Queer Movie Night fun with Omar and Keith – Sunday, August 26, 2018.

Above: With Hae and Javier.

Above and below: On the rooftop of Omar's apartment building in Eagan, MN – August 26, 2018.

Above and right: With Brent, Pete, and Chris at a performance by The Suburbs at Lake Harriet, Minneapolis – Friday, September 7, 2018.

Above, left, and below: Kayaking on the Mississippi River with my boyfriend Brent and our friends Pete and Jeffrey – Sunday, September 9, 2018.

Above: Jeffrey and Pete – September 9, 2018.

Above: On Saturday, September 15, my friends Joan and Matt hosted a "Farewell Summer / Welcome Fall" dinner at their home in Mendota Heights. Pictured from left: Kurt, Cesar, Joan, Matt, Omar, John, and George.

Above: With Kurt, Matt, and Omar.

Summer 2018 Wild Reed posts of note:
Celebrating the Summer Solstice
Liberating Paris: Thoughts on Jennie Livingston's Paris Is Burning
Carl Anderson
Stephanie Beatriz on the Truth of Being Bi
"What We're Seeing Here Is a Tipping Point" Nationwide Protests Against the Trump Administration's Immigration Policies
I Suspect the World Remembers Everything . . .
Michael Sean Winters on This Year's Grim Fourth of July: "The Entire Republican Establishment Has Caved to Trumpism"
Queer Native Americans, Colonialism, and the Fourth of July
How We Can Help the People of Yemen
Tous les Mêmes
The Tragedy of the Romanovs, 100 Years On
Carl Anderson: "One of the Most Enjoyable Male Vocalists of His Era"
Thomas Moore on the Circling of Nature as the Best Way to Find Our Substance
A Morning at the Minneapolis Institute of Art
LeBron James: A True American Hero
Summer Blooms
"Avengers Assemble!"
As the World Burns, Calls for a "Green New Deal"
To Be Alive Is to Love

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Out and About – Spring 2018 (Part I)
Out and About – Spring 2018 (Part II)
Out and About – Winter 2017-2018
Out and About – Autumn 2017
Out and About – Summer 2017

Images: Michael J. Bayly. (With thanks to my friend Katie for the opening image.)